South Bethany adopts 2012 budget — tax rate stays flat

The South Bethany Town Council approved the 2012-fiscal-year budget at their council meeting on April 8. They also approved a resolution to set the 2012 property tax and rental tax rates, which will stay the same rates of $1.30 per $100 of assessed valuation for the property tax rate and 8 percent of total gross receipts for rental of residential and commercial property for the rental tax rate.

The council was also set to put forth a resolution to schedule a public hearing regarding pavement improvements to Ocean Drive, but because the bid came in considerably lower than budgeted and also less than $100,000 – the threshold above which a public hearing and voter approval is required – they canceled the resolution and any hearing.

The low bid on the project was from Delmarva Paving Inc. of Seaford, including a two-year warranty, for $88,252.

Town Manager Mel Cusick said that the paving company hoped to start the work around April 15 and finish by the end of the month, as liquid asphalt prices were expected to rise May 1. He said their goal is to make the roadway a “straight shot” of 20 feet in width. It runs anywhere between 16 and 20 feet wide now.

Because $235,000 was budgeted for the paving work, the council briefly discussed what would happen to the difference between the amounts, and Councilman Tim Saxton said there could be a way to offset it to taxpayers.

Councilman Jim Gross offered that they should be thankful the bids came in “as low as they did” and said the money could be put aside for future needs for now, and the town could look at reducing taxes next year.

Saxton reiterated that they haven’t decided what to do yet, and it would go to the Budget and Finance Committee at their next meeting, on May 13, so they would probably have a recommendation for next month’s council meeting.

Several people present at the April 8 meeting asked about town employees, in relation to the budget. Resident Barbara Jayne expressed concern that the 2.5 percent increase “doesn’t even cover what they’ll pay for insurance.”

Saxton explained that hard decisions had needed to be made.

“The family plan is the same [they] were paying all along,” he said of the costs. “And a few individuals might be affected, no matter how we do it. We knew that could happen, but we felt it was a decision to help start curtailing the healthcare costs, and we had to start.”

He also said he was a bit tired of hearing from “select people in the public” that he was personally to blame for the budget. “That’s not right,” Saxton added.

Mayor Jay Headman added that budgeting is not just a “two-month process,” that planning goes on throughout the year.

Also on April 8, Councilwoman Sue Calloway reported that the beautification committee had met in March and was reviewing plant selections to put in rain gardens in the town’s roadway medians on Route 1.

She said they were “piggybacking” on the plan the Center for the Inland Bays has for bio-retention ponds – “rain garden” is an easier sell, Callaway noted) in the median strips, with the goal of cleaner water.

The process will start with two existing beds, across from York Beach Mall, where nine crepe myrtles will be planted, and more to be planted across from Sussex Place and S. 5th Street. Also, they will plant select grasses, based on information from Sue Barton of the University of Delaware, said Calloway.

“Our hope is that we’ll spend money once, except for the occasional maintenance. This is not an annual expense,” she said.

Callaway noted that she had attended rain garden training and that the town now has five homeowners involved in the “Adopt-a-Canal” program.

Councilman George Junkin added that, if the CIB’s Chris Bason can get the median areas excavated so they can have rain garden/bio-retention functions, “we’re ahead of the game. We’ll just have to pay for the vegetation.”